18 July 2024
Science-based shark conservation: Avoid extreme reactions

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Understanding the Importance of Science-Based Shark Conservation

Sharks, often portrayed as fearsome predators in popular culture, play a vital role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. However, the conservation of shark populations is facing challenges, particularly in Brazil, where extreme reactions to shark bite incidents and the increasing population growth of these creatures threaten their recovery. It is crucial for Brazilian authorities to adopt a science-based approach to shark conservation to ensure the long-term survival of these animals and the health of marine ecosystems.

The Disconnect in Conservation Efforts

A recent paper published in Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation emphasizes the need for a paradigm shift in managing shark recovery in Brazilian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The disconnect between conservation goals and reactionary measures following shark incidents, such as proposals for shark culling and the prohibition of scientific diving, poses a significant threat to ongoing conservation efforts. These knee-jerk reactions lack scientific evidence and may hinder the progress made in preserving shark populations over the years.

Dr. Osmar Luiz, a Research Fellow at the Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, highlights the detrimental impact of such measures on shark populations. He points out that shark culling, in particular, does not effectively reduce the number of shark bites and can lead to unintended consequences by capturing other species, including endangered ones. The lack of proper monitoring and surveillance of sharks could reverse the positive strides made in conservation efforts and the substantial investments made in Brazil’s marine conservation initiatives.

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New Strategies for Effective Shark Management

To overcome the challenges facing shark conservation in Brazil, Dr. Luiz suggests the implementation of new strategies grounded in a science-based approach that aligns with conservation goals and offers potential economic benefits. Firstly, there is a need for comprehensive studies to understand the reasons behind shark incidents and to explore shark behavior, habitat use, and population abundance. This knowledge can provide valuable insights into preventing future incidents and promoting coexistence between sharks and humans.

Secondly, Dr. Luiz advocates for the exploration of sustainable activities such as shark diving tourism as a means to support conservation efforts. Shark diving not only generates economic benefits but also raises awareness and appreciation for these creatures, fostering a sense of stewardship towards their protection. Encouraging responsible interactions with sharks can help shift perceptions and promote a harmonious relationship between humans and these apex predators.

Urgency of Resuming Scientific Diving and Monitoring Programs

Another critical aspect highlighted by Dr. Luiz is the immediate resumption of scientific diving and long-term underwater monitoring programs in research stations. Scientific diving provides valuable data that can help evaluate the outcomes of conservation initiatives and track the ecological progression of MPAs. Despite concerns about the risks posed by increased shark populations, interactions between sharks and SCUBA divers are rare, and the benefits of collecting data far outweigh the perceived dangers.

By reinstating scientific diving activities and maintaining long-term monitoring programs, researchers can gather essential information that informs conservation strategies and ensures the sustainable management of shark populations. These initiatives are crucial for enhancing our understanding of sharks, their behavior, and their role in marine ecosystems, ultimately contributing to the successful conservation of these magnificent creatures.


The urgent need for a science-based approach to shark conservation in Brazil cannot be overstated. By reframing conservation efforts through research-backed strategies, authorities can effectively protect shark populations, promote coexistence with humans, and safeguard the health of marine ecosystems. Embracing sustainable practices, such as shark diving tourism, and prioritizing scientific monitoring programs are essential steps towards ensuring the long-term viability of shark populations in Brazilian waters. It is imperative that policymakers, stakeholders, and the public work together to support science-based shark conservation initiatives and secure a brighter future for these iconic marine species.

Links to additional Resources:

1. IUCN: Sharks 2. World Wildlife Fund: Sharks 3. National Geographic: Sharks

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Shark conservation, Marine Protected Areas, Shark diving tourism

Sharks are a group of elasmobranch fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha (or Selachii) and are the sister group to the...
Read more: Shark

Marine protected area
Marine protected areas (MPA) are protected areas of the world's seas, oceans, estuaries or in the US, the Great Lakes. These marine areas can come in many forms ranging from wildlife refuges to research facilities. MPAs restrict human activity for a conservation purpose, typically to protect natural or cultural resources....
Read more: Marine protected area

Shark tourism
Shark tourism is a form of eco-tourism that allows people to dive with sharks in their natural environment. This benefits local shark populations by educating tourists and through funds raised by the shark tourism industry. Communities that previously relied on shark finning to make their livelihoods are able to make...
Read more: Shark tourism

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